States Required to Send Requested Absentee Ballots to U.S. Military and Civilian Overseas Voters

September 24, 2016 is the federally mandated deadline for all states to send out validly requested absentee ballots to Service members, their eligible family members and overseas U.S. citizens for the November 2016 General Election.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 was amended in 2009 by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 in an attempt to provide greater protections for service members, their families and other overseas citizens.  One of the MOVE Act’s most important provisions requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election.  States must transmit the voter’s blank absentee ballot either by mail or “electronically" if requested, which could mean via a website, email or fax machine.

As recommended by the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative Policy working group, election officials should use clear and concise language when communicating with UOCAVA voters at every step in the voting process. The voting materials and associated instructions should be designed in a manner that makes it as easy as possible for voters to understand.  Examples include telling the voters that the absentee ballots are available, how to complete and return the ballot, return deadlines and letting them know that their ballot was received. These relatively simple steps help voters to know that their efforts were not wasted and affirm that the process does work.

All overseas voters should complete a Federal Post Card application (FPCA) each year to ensure they are able to participate in elections as a military or overseas absentee voter. FPCA’s are available for printing and signature in fillable PDF format and through an online completion assistant on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website .  To receive information by email about election dates and deadlines, voters can subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (  FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.  Contact your state or local election officials in the United States to check the status of an absentee ballot request.

In September 2013, CSG launched a four-year, $3.2 million initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to improve the return rate of overseas absentee ballots from service members and U.S. citizens abroad.  CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative website can be accessed here: